Corey and Lori's Quest Log


Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

Posts Tagged ‘Quest for Glory’

Funny Business

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

“Why so SERIOUS?” – The Joker, The Dark Knight

Humor is a very serious business. I say that because I’m not very good at it, yet somehow managed to make a living at it for several years. Quest for Glory is known as a “humorous adventure game” series and we worked hard at keeping it that way. As frustrating as adventure games can be, we decided that it was better to have people laugh with us than scream at us.

Humor isn’t just for “funny” games and stories. Quest for Glory has a serious plot – the inexperienced Hero overcoming all odds to save the world. But along the way, there are many humorous moments and occasional outright silliness. Those moments lighten the mood, making the next dramatic bit all the more powerful.

So, how do you make a pun fun? We’ll show you how it’s done.

Running Gags

JokeThe idea of a running gag is to have a short joke that keeps showing up in different contexts. Ideally, it gets a little crazier each time and ends in a “payoff” punch line. Warner Brothers cartoons were famous for this. Airplane had a character say, “I guess I picked a bad time to give up smoking.” Not at all funny by itself, but by the time they got to “… a bad time to stop sniffing glue,” “… a bad time to start guiding space shuttles,” and so on, the accumulated ridiculousness became hilarious.

ErasmusWe didn’t have too many running jokes in Quest for Glory, but there was a walking one – the Awful Waffle Walker of Tarna. Marc Hudgins, a QG3 animator (and later lead artist on QG4), animated a walking waffle just for fun. He showed it to us and we ended up integrating it into the game. You kill it, you eat it.

The one-upmanship of Erasmus and Fenris might count as a running gag – Erasmus would start to tell a joke, Fenris would top it, Erasmus would try to recover, and Fenris would end with a zinger. It was enough to make anyone gag.

Ridiculous References

punchlineQuest for Glory got a lot of mileage out of anachronistic references to other sources. We used the Marx Brothers in QG2, Young Frankenstein in QG4, and dozens of other pop culture references. At one point Erasmus tells the Hero, “I can say no more,” and Fenris responds, “Please say no more.” That’s from the Beatles movie, “Hard Day’s Night.”

How abstruse were the in-jokes? I think we can safely say that nobody got all of them. Looking back at the Hero Magazine included with QG4, we had an article called, The Hero as an Artform by Fish Crawdad, “Ze Greatest Hero in Ze World” That’s a reference to Chris Crawford, who used to (jokingly, we think) call himself, “ze greatest game designer in ze world.” Chris, in turn, used “ze” to make fun of the fake French accents beloved by self-appointed “auteurs” in the film industry. Or how about the “Elderbury Pie” you bring Baba Yaga in QG4? Did you know that “Erna’s Elderberry House” is the fanciest restaurant in Oakhurst? I didn’t think so.

Fenrus's PunchlineOther references in that magazine (and QG4) include “October Derleth” (August Derleth), “H.P. Craftlove” (H.P. Lovecraft), the mad monk Amon Tillado (“The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allen Poe), “Carl Atlas” (Charles Atlas, the body builder, who used to advertise on the back cover of comic books), and “Mister Mannerly” (Miss Manners, the newspaper advice columnist).

FenrusMonty Python was a favorite source – for example, the Dead Parrot Inn is only funny if you’ve seen their dead parrot sketch. Vorpal bunnies were feared monsters in QG4. To get to Erasmus’s house in QG1, you first had to get by a gargoyle who asks you “Questions Three.”

There were even references to other Sierra games. Every Quest for Glory features a moose head somewhere. This was a long-standing Sierra tradition used in King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and other games. In Mordavia, the moose has fangs.

Certain Sounds are Silly

An aardvark and an emu check into a hotel in Azusa. Whatever happens to them, we know it’s going to be funny. Quest for Glory 1 featured the Antwerp, one of the strangest monsters in gamedom. Basically they just bounced up and down, but it they landed on you, it was crushing. If you hit one with a dagger, it split into multiple baby Antwerps.

It could have been worse. We could have set the entire game in Cucamonga.

Rhyme and Pun-ishment

“Doctor, my funny bone hurts.” “Well, it’s clear… You need an a-pun-dectomy!”

It’s been said that the pun is the lowest form of humor. They say that as though it’s a bad thing. But we need high humor and low. Most puns (excepting certain shaggy dog stories and Feghoots) have the virtue of being over very quickly. A pun can be fun if you tell it and run.

A pun is really just a specialized form of word play. Other forms can be excessive alliteration, using alternate meanings of words, having a character use language you wouldn’t expect, and many others.

The Gnomes in Quest for Glory are known for their sense of humor – and particularly their puns. In the first game, you eventually learn that dark wizard of the brigands is actually Yorick, a gnome jester who makes you cross a crazy room in order to talk to him.

In Shapeir, when you first go into the magic shop, you are greeted with, “Welcome to my little shop of wonders. Wonder what shop this is? It’s magic of course. I am Keapon Laffin, proprietor. You must be Nobil Caws. Proud to know you Mister Caws.” He spoke in riddles and rhyme all of the time. He was obviously a pun-dit of pun-demonium.

PunnybonesIn Shadows of Darkness, you meet the Gnome comedian, Punny Bones. This unfunny Gnome can’t tell a joke from a straight line since the time he told the joke so bad that it made Baba Yaga curse. You get to help poor Punny regain his punchlines by bringing him a Good Humor Bar in QG4. Yes, we raised the bar for humor there.

And a Gnome named Anne runs the “Gnome Anne’s Land” Inn in Silmaria in QG5. Her food is world renowned – The lobsters there are so fresh, you have to slap their faces. And salad dressing? Her tomatoes wear tuxedos and her lettuce wears lace.

Some of the most effective puns are accidental. Just remember – When no pun intended, then no pun ish meant.

The Funny Pictures

We love comics because a good illustration can often make something funnier than mere words. Frank and Ernest is a personal favorite. The characters and settings are so wacky, the words just seem funnier. Besides, Bob Thaves comes up with a lot of fun puns.

The original EGA Hero’s Quest used a very cartoony style – How realistic can you get in 320×200, 16-color graphics anyway? That set the tone for the game. The entire “bouncing Antwerp” bit came from a Jeff Crowe illustration. Similarly, the cartoony appearance of Erasmus and Fenris in the first game goes right along with their bantering dialogue.

The detailed room backgrounds were filled with knick-knacks and in-jokes. At Keapon’s magic shop, you will see stuffed antwerps, the Starship Enterprise, and x-ray goggles. The goggles were ‘a veil-able’ when you needed them.

And then there were the opening cartoons… The first game opens with the Hero chasing after a small Saurus, then running away from a much larger Saurus. In the second game, your flying carpet almost gets hit by the Starship Enterprise.

Seek Serious Silliness

Did you know that April is National Humor Month in the U.S.? That gives us license to carry a pun. That’s an awesome responsibility! Have you told a bloke a joke today? Made a llama laugh or a gorilla giggle? If not you – then zoo?

With the Glory days behind us, it’s once again time for us all to light the lantern of laughter and kindle the candle of kookiness. We must seek out new lines and new pun-tifications. We’ll boldly joke where Gnome Anne has punned before.

 

April Fools

Punny Bones, Fenrus, and Erasmus’s images were from QG4, created originally by Tim Loucks.

The Episodic Fable of the Elements

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Sherlock Meep“It’s elementary, my Dear Watson.” – or not – since Sherlock Holmes never actually said that. Just as you may or may Not be curious about the Elements that make up the world and all life within it. There have been many attempts to classify the basis of all matter into just four elements – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. However, such attempts miss out on the heart and soul of true alchemy – the fifth Element.

And what, you may ask, is the fifth Element? Why, Pizza, of course!

A ‘Sedimental’ Journey

Earth is traditionally the element of solidity and protection. As the only element with any real substance, one could say Earth really matters… or at least that it’s really matter. What’s it matter, really? It’s ‘earthential’ to our standing on the planet, and I think I’m on solid ground when I say that.

In Glorianna, Earth is susceptible to Fire and Air loses to Earth. That’s because wood is “earthy” by virtue of being solid, and wood burns. It could have been the other way around, with Fire burning Air, and Earth putting out Fire, but then Water would have been left behind. Blocking the water would have been a dam nuisance to the story line, so we practiced a little damage control by letting Earth “ground” the air. Earth is really heavy, so Air has trouble carrying it, you see. But mostly it was because Fire already had an enemy (and Water has anemones).

If you need protection, visualize rock walls… or build some. In a crisis, stand your ground and remember that the Earth itself is your guardian. Just don’t try to stonewall anyone in authority while you’re stoned; you might find yourself breaking rocks on a chain gang. And don’t wall yourself in.

Air On A G-String (Or On the Side of Caution)

That’s Mozart, not what exotic dancers wear. Or maybe they do wear violin strings; some of those outfits are pretty skimpy. Hmm, air, g-strings, Marilyn Monroe? Uh, where was I?

Oh yes, air. It’s the lightweight, lighthearted element that lifts your spirits (or Marilyn’s skirt). Forget that, it’s an obvious air-or. As we mentioned, air doesn’t like to be grounded, but it could go the other way – Wind and Water, working together, can level mountains. Air is the element of movement, of speech, of music, and of course, the Winds of Change.

A wise person once said (well, actually, it was The Hollies who sang), “All I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you.” The Police said something about, “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you,” but you can get arrested for that sort of airheaded behavior these days. And how about that Air-ol Flynn? Loved him as Robin Hood shooting his air-ohs straight to the target. But let’s not get too far off the mark here. I have a burning desire to move on to the next Element.

Fire You Looking at Me That Way?

This is the really hot topic; I’m really fired up about it. Besides, they’d fire me if I held my fire this time. I don’t want to start a flame war, but you know how it is – You play with fire, you get burned. So I’ll take my place in the hot seat and just fire away at this energetic element.
Fire warms our homes, gives us light, cooks our pizza (more on that later), and generally adds a little excitement to life. Light that fire! Romantic candlelight dinners in front of a warm fireplace on a cold Winter’s night would be rather challenging without the element of Fire.

Magically, fire adds energy to anything you need to do. Witches light candles and incense in their ceremonies to attract the attention of the spirits and to commit themselves to the ritual. When you need power, visualize the flame that drives you to succeed. Just don’t burn out in the process.

Water You Wadin’ For?

Well, now that we’ve dipped our toes in the water, it’s time to dive in all the way. You may think you’re washed up, but sometimes you just have to come clean. (Note to Lori: This is sinking fast! Can you bail me out? I know, I know, that isn’t really your bail-iwick.) Sometimes you may feel like a very small fish in a very big pond, but if you stick to your (water) guns, you can really clean up some filthy situations. If at first you scrub out, dry, dry again.

Water is the element of healing, love, and new beginnings. When you want to try something new, start with a long, soothing bath. You’ll smell better too. Drink plenty of water and share it with your water brothers and sisters. Always see the glass as half-full. Make no empty promises. Water your house plants every week. Get into the swim of life!

Conserve energy – If you commute to work or school, join a car pool. And when you’re drown on your luck, or drowning in love’s debris, maybe taking a bath financially and in trouble with the loan sharks, look to the healing power of water to wash your sins clean and make it all better.

Get Yourself a Pizza the Action

“The Element of Pizza is best known to symbolize quick energy and regeneration.” – ChaosBurnFlame on a comic book forum.

Without Pizza, life as we know it would not exist. The world of Glorianna was built on the firm but flexible foundation of crisp pizza crusts. Without frequent Pizza Factory™ excursions to fuel the furnace of creativity, few of the Quest for Glory team members would have survived those late night crunches – or the late night munchies – that make up the Sisyphean Nightmare Warren™ of game development.

Dr. Cranium insists that the world is made up of five elements – Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Pizza. However, Dr. Cranium is also a Mad Scientist, and they are sometimes known for their crackpot theories. The Wizards’ Institute of Technocery (also known as “WIT”) has this to say on the subject:

WIT Wizard“There are some misguided individuals who insist that the world is made up of five elements. Of course, those of us enlightened in the advanced arts of Technocery know better. Only Earth, Air, Fire, and Water are true elements. Pizza is actually a compound formed by composition from the basic four elements. Earth is present in the form of flour and yeast – and often as oh-so-yummy mushrooms. Water is an essential element of pizza dough, since dry flour is pretty hard to knead and rather messy to toss. Tossing is of course an essential part of the magical development process of a perfect pizza as it incorporates air into the mixture. Finally, Fire is used both in baking and the bold burn of the pepperonis. Nothing is present in Pizza that cannot easily be attributed to one of the other four elements, and therefore Pizza is a compound, not a true Element in its own right.”

Dr. Cranium responds:

Dr. Cranium“Now what do those so-called-Wizard nincompoops know of SCIENCE? They all run around in dresses and those silly hats and prattle on about their “technocery.” That isn’t even a WORD! They call me mad, but what do they know of madness? We’ll see how crazy I am when I TAKE OVER their silly WIT with my pizza-powered siege engines and my army of Elemental Pizza Warriors in their impenetrable pizza-box armor. THEN who will be the crazy one? Muahahahahaaaaa!”

Confounded Compounded Conclusions

So, there you have it – The eternal, fundamental conflict between the impeccable logic of science and the emotion-driven fantasy world of magic. Will science prove more powerful than Wizardry in the end? Only time will tell. Is pizza really elementary? I’m not sure about that, but it’s definitely alimentary.

Our little fable comes to an end as the elements combine to form amazing new compounds of wonder and magic. Four elements, or maybe five. Every one of them is important. That’s why they’re in the Alphabet Song – You know the line, the one that goes “Elemental Pea.” All I am saying, is give peas a chance and maybe we’ll have whirled peas in our time (or at least flavored with thyme).

Yes, it’s true – Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective, never once uttered those words in the Canon of stories that have come down to us. And yet it’s his best-remembered phrase. The movies made that line famous.

Rock, Scissors, and Paper Tiger

Friday, September 12th, 2008

You’ve all played Rock, Scissors, Paper, right? It’s a two-player game in which both players simultaneously reveal a fist (rock), open hand (paper), or two fingers (scissors). Rock breaks scissors, paper wraps rock, scissors cut paper. If both players make the same choice, it’s a tie and they try again.

Paper TigerDid you know that there’s a professional Rock, Scissors, Paper tour? Actually, we’re not sure there really is one, but there are international tournaments and two different events each year that bill themselves as the World Championship of Rock, Scissors, Paper. “Professional” RSP players call it Roshambo. It sounds more mysterious, and it’s a little shorter.

Rockin’ the Night Away

On its surface, Roshambo seems like a totally random game. If you programmed two computers to play each other, and one always chose randomly, it wouldn’t matter what the other one chose. In the long run, they will tie. In real life, the game gets interesting because the players try to psych each other out. You either predict the move your opponent will make or use psychological tactics to get him to make the move you want. The game rules are evenly balanced, but players’ minds are not.

Perry Friedman, a Roshambo World Champion and Tiltboy, once gave me a few tips on the game. New players rarely pick Rock as their first move – It feels unnatural to start with a closed fist and keep it that way – so Scissors is a strong first move against an amateur. Of course, he might have told me that just so that I would pick Rock first next time we played so he could be ready to counter it with Paper. Sneakiness is an important attribute for a Roshambo champion.

One Rule to Rule Them All?

We keep reading books and articles on game design that basically say, “All games are variations on Rock, Scissors, Paper.” Everyone nods their heads sagely at such an obvious truth, then works on their latest RSP game mechanic. The only problem with this is that the “rule” isn’t true and lazy application of it leads to bad game design.

The idea is as simple as RSP. Create some variation in the game by creating several different types of units, then balance them so that every unit has its Nemesis. If artillery is strong against cavalry, then make it vulnerable to infantry. If a Wizard easily defeats a Warrior because armor doesn’t stop his spells, then let a Rogue sneak up behind the Wizard and kill him before he can react. This is much more interesting than giving everyone the same strengths and weaknesses.

The concept is simple and obvious… but it’s a little too simple. If all conflict was determined by numbers and formulae, then an RSP model might work fine… and make a really boring game.

Black-and-White Logic in a Multi-Colored World

The problem with “Roshambo rules all” is that the real world is fuzzy, not binary. Bart Kosko, in his book Fuzzy Thinking, talks about the philosophy of fuzzy logic. Kosko claims that fuzzy set theory does a better job of describing the real world than do traditional mathematical models. When we talk about “tall people,” we don’t mean that everyone over six feet tall is “tall” and everyone else is “not tall.” There are degrees of tallness. In traditional Aristotelian logic, everything is either part of a set or not part of it. Fuzzy logic is designed to solve problems that are best described by “partial membership” in sets.

Roshambo has no grayness. There are only three possible actions, and the results of each pair of actions are clearly defined. Great games have many more factors and no black-and-white answers. The excitement comes from uncertainty and the idea that “on any given day, anyone can win.” A combat (or competition) is decided not only by the game rules, but by the relative skill of the players and other factors such as equipment, environmental conditions, and the actions of other players and “monsters.”

World of Warcraft combat is fun because it is unpredictable. There is a Roshambo bias for who “should” win in an otherwise equal encounter, but it’s just an edge, not a guarantee. And that’s pretty much true in every great game. There has to be room for player skill to make a difference. If the game is totally symmetrical, then there is no reason for a player to choose a particular type of unit and the game might as well be simulated on a computer rather than played.

Of course, if the game is too asymmetrical, everybody will choose the strongest units and the game developers might as well have left out the rest. This is why game balance is one of the hardest aspects of game design to master. A seemingly minor tweak can result in some players becoming far too powerful or others becoming hopelessly weak. As characters or units become more powerful and complicated, achieving game balance becomes a tremendously difficult job.

A Hit-Driven Business

Coin flips, Roshambo, and dice rolling in Dungeons & Dragons all have something in common – They have black-and-white rules for who wins. The best game designs hit the sweet spot between such deterministic rules and total chaos. Players tend to see patterns where there are none, and often assume randomness where a game is actually deterministic. This leads to what I think of as the “probability fallacy.”

Is a coin flip actually a 50-50 proposition? Only before you flip the coin. Once the coin falls, the result is known and is either 100% heads or 100% tails. The same applies to most game puzzle situations. Something that is a 75% probability really means that 75% of the players succeed 100% and the other 25% fail… or resort to restoring saved games until they “win.” Role-playing games get around this by repetition – If there is a 25% chance the player will get a particular item on killing a monster, he just has to kill dozens or hundreds of them to find the 10 or 20 items required for a quest. This can get more than a little boring and repetitious, but at least it gives players an extra reason for killing those monsters.

How about the actual combat? Dungeons & Dragons and its spiritual descendants have you roll two dice. The first roll determines if you hit, the second how much damage you deal. There are some problems with this approach, especially in an online multiplayer game. When you shoot at a moving target in Quake, do you hit it? It might look like a very obvious hit on one player’s screen and an equally obvious miss on the other.

A Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

A better fuzzy logic approach would be to apply a series of fuzzy rules to the combat – What sort of attack are you making? What kinds of defenses does your opponent have in play? How far apart are you? How much movement is involved? How good are your stats and equipment, and how strong are the opponent’s? A fuzzy combat system would combine the results of all the rules and come out with an appropriately-averaged result. This might be that you graze your opponent for a minor wound, or that you get in a solid hit, or that you miss entirely. The actual amount of damage would take all factors into account instead of being a random dice roll.

Fuzzy LogicObviously this isn’t a good system for a paper role-playing game where the players have to make all those calculations. But computers happen to be good at doing a lot of things fast. Why should our video games be tied to restrictions inherited from paper gaming?

Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness featured a fuzzy logic combat system. We think it was one of the most successful approaches in the series. Players could choose to fight as in an arcade game, or they could set a “combat style” and have the computer take actions according to that style. All of the “monsters” had individual fighting styles of their own. We think this made combat pretty interesting and helped players with poor arcade skills be able to enjoy the game.

We’d like to see more games use a fuzzy logic approach to conflict resolution. It isn’t much harder to program than traditional logic and it solves a lot of problems (such as the effect of lag) that have proven very difficult to solve with binary logic. Most importantly, a fuzzy logic system is much easier to balance because the reasoning can be recorded and observed. In effect, a well-designed fuzzy system can tell the developer or player why it made each decision.

So what will it be? Thinly disguised games of Rock, Scissors, Paper in which the game systems are transparent, boring, and can be manipulated by the players? Or tear up that paper tiger and create rich, complex game systems that use the power of fuzzy sets to balance themselves? Truly great games favor the skilled player, but leave enough room for a lucky, less-skilled player to compete and have a fair chance of winning occasionally.

Paper Tiger

Star Trek: The Final Frontier

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Lori’s friend Susan sent her an article from her local paper about the closing of the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. This was a exhibition and simulator ride based mostly around Star Trek: The Next Generation. Given that the show has been off the air for fourteen years, it really isn’t a surprise that they finally shut it down.

And yet, it’s sad.

These were the Voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise

To Boldly Go Her 5-year mission was extended several times – The original show, The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise. Each series had its own unique flavor, but they all stretched our imaginations and made us wonder about “what is out there” beyond the limits of our solar system.

We don’t consider ourselves to be Trekkies, although our lives have been heavily influenced by Star Trek. As children, we watched the original series with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. (Lori, of course, had a crush on Spock at the time.) Corey still remembers sitting on a couch with his family watching the season previews and how excited they were about the upcoming Star Trek show. Corey’s father helped run his father’s corner store in New York City and read every issue of Astounding Stories, If, Galaxy, and other pulp science fiction magazines. Corey grew up in a living room filled with books and magazines, many of them science fiction and fantasy.

The Prime Directive

Although the Enterprise crew seemed to forget it occasionally – when to do so was convenient to a story line – all starship crews were required to follow the Prime Directive. They were not to interfere with other civilizations, nor even to reveal the existence of the Federation or star ships to pre-spacefaring worlds. Wikipedia quotes it as:

“No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations.”

Of course, they proceeded to break the rules right and left, all in the name of the Greater Good. Sort of like the concept of the Quest for Glory Paladin who must decide between the laws and justice.

The Star Trek series took on issues of war and authoritarianism, of personal heroism and working for peace. It was set in a world with no borders and no race or sex barriers – no limits. Then there was the overall message of hope – we will make it to the future, and the stars will be ours to explore.

Those were pretty good lessons to grow up with.

To Seek Out New Life and New Civilizations

Quest for Glory owes much to Star Trek. Yes, there’s the USS ‘Exitprise’ in the Magic Shop of Shapeir. On the hero’s way in to Shapeir, the magic carpet almost gets hit by the starship going into warp drive. But there’s much more than that below the surface.

Star Trek was always about going to new lands and new civilizations. The crew’s missions were all about bringing peace to war-torn worlds and creating a better future. Uhura, the Warrior and Adventure Guildmaster in ‘Trial by Fire’ and in ‘Wages of War’ was named after the character in Star Trek for a reason. In Swahili, the word uhuru means freedom. (We learned this from a Star Trek filk song!) We wanted the player to set people free from fear and evil. We wanted the players to feel like true heroes.

To Boldly Go where no one has Gone Before

Corey gets 'Borged'We have seen the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas several times. We ate at Quark’s Bar and Restaurant and talked to Klingons and Ferrangi there. We even got an Evil Tribble from it. This was a battery powered tribble that would wiggle and purr when we first got it… but little did we know its true nature. After a while, it would turn itself on at odd times and give low, growling noises and it wouldn’t shut itself down. I think we locked it away in a chest somewhere. Perhaps by now it has escaped and plotted to take over the world with the Evil Meep… but that’s another story.

We have a garland beside the kitchen with a string of lights and Star Trek ornaments. Our favorite drinking mug has a Klingon Bird of Prey. Lori even has a pressed coin with the Bird of Prey symbol on it from the Experience in her purse. She isn’t quite sure where she can spend that, but she’s well prepared for the Klingon Invasion. She even has a Klingon font on her computer, since you never know when you may have to answer an ultimatum from an invading alien species.

We’ve even played Klingon characters in D&D. Well, technically they’re Uruks, but the DM based them on Klingons, and they’re pretty much indistinguishable personality-wise.

We’re still not Trekkies. Er… by some definition. Even if we have gone to a Star Trek convention or two. And Grok Spock.

Klingon Warrior

All Good Things…

Anyway, we’re sad that the Star Trek Experience has gone away. It’s sad that all of the Star Trek TV series have come and gone. Then again, they all seem dated and hokey in today’s world. They had their final voyage, and it’s time to let them sail away.

But the Legacy of Star Trek will live on.

Live long and Prosper. Q’plah!

To Boldly Go Where No One has Gone Before

Photos of ‘Corey gets Borged’ (he got better) and ‘Klingon Warrior’ were taken at the Star Trek Experience four years ago. ‘To Boldly Go’ is original art by Lori.

‘Trial by Fire’ Reborn

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Two days ago, AGDInteractive released the full-color, completely re-coded version of Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. After eight years of development, they have a right to celebrate right now. They got to experience all the wonders of the ‘Endless Sisyphean Nightmare Warren’ and they didn’t even get paid to do so! This was a labor of love, and they offer it free to everyone who wants to experience or remember this classic Adventure-Role-playing game.

Quest for Glory II

Once upon a time many, many moons ago, when we were young and innocent, Corey and I designed and developed Trial by Fire for Sierra On-Line. Fresh with the success of “So You Want to Be a Hero,” we were ready to take our players to a new world of role-playing. We wanted to created a fantasy game based on the Arabian Nights tales. It would have all of the tropes and archetypes of the Persian stories and a strong elemental theme of Summer and fire. We subtitled it, “Trial by Fire.” We had no idea the name would be prophetic.

Trial by Fire

Fast-forward ten years. A group of Sierra adventure game fans calling themselves the “Anonymous Game Developers” decided that perhaps they could do what Sierra had chosen not to do. They decided to use an open-source adventure game development system to recreate a few of the classic 16-color Sierra games – starting with King’s Quest 1 and 2 – with 256-color VGA graphics. Quest for Glory 2: Trial by Fire was next on their list and they started in on the project with great energy in 2001. After several iterations and a long journey through the Sisyphean nightmare warren of game development, AGDI has now (August 2008) released the finished product. You can read more about the history of QG2 VGA on the AGDI web site.

Amazingly, the AGDI team was able to get a limited license from Sierra allowing them to distribute the game with its original name and characters as long as they give it away free and nobody distributes it for a profit. Knowing how much work went into the Quest for Glory 1 VGA conversion, our hats are off to this incredible team for creating QG2 VGA as a labor of love. Incidentally, we had no say on the license, since Sierra/Vivendi owns all the rights to our games, but we are fully behind the AGDI team and the QG2 VGA project.

Trial by Fire HeroesSo how is the game? Well, actually, it’s so new, we haven’t played much of it yet. Corey has spent a few hours trying out the thief and fighter characters. The 256-color graphics are beautiful, although you will find them much different from today’s 3D graphics environments. The game play seems very faithful to the original with several new features. AGDI adapted the menu and point-and-click systems from Quest for Glory 3 to give Trial by Fire much the same feel. They also give you a choice of a fully menu-based conversation system, the original parsed system (type in the keyword about which you want to ask), or a hybrid system that allows both options. I really like the hybrid system as it allows me to skip directly to a particular topic without having to follow the menus.

I found inventory use a little cumbersome at first, although that’s probably mostly because I didn’t remember how we did in in Quest for Glory 3! You use the hidden menu to access your inventory and select an item. The right mouse button toggles between possible actions (walk, use or attack, talk, or the chosen inventory item), then clicking the left button on a person or object tries to apply that action.

Compared to today’s no-brain interface (right-click on something to do whatever the game designer or programmer decided you should do with that person or object), it takes more thought and more time to take an action, but it also really opens up the user’s choices. If you’re lazy, you probably won’t like it. Playing QG2 VGA reminded me that adventure games used to be much more complex and difficult than today’s games.

By the way, Save your game early and often! Corey didn’t and was pretty embarrassed when he died in his first combat and had no saved game to which to restore. There does not appear to be an automatic save feature in QG2 VGA, as there almost certainly was none in the original version. So far, Corey has been unable to defeat any enemy in combat. He managed to get a brigand down to 50% of his health before the main character succumbed. A serious arcade gamer might have an easier time with the combat, but this could be a problem in an adventure RPG. Perhaps AGDI will release a patch later with an “easy mode” combat option for gamers who were already mature when QG2 first appeared.

Not only did ADGI include many of the fun Easter Eggs of the game like the Silly clown option with Harpo Marx running down the alleyways, but they brought back the Saurus Repair Shop that had to be cut from the release version of the game because it wouldn’t fit on the disk. I’m told they even added an Easter Egg or two. That just goes to show how much care and ‘professionalism beyond the call of duty’ ADGI has – they really went out of their way to add to the fun of the game.

Our recommendation: Visit AGDI’s web site and download your free copy of Quest for Glory 2: Trial by Fire. Make sure you read the included documentation before you start the game so that you’ll have an easier time with the interface and combat than Corey managed. Then let us and AGDI both know how you like the game… and if you love it, write to Vivendi and request they release a new edition of the rest of the Quest for Glory series. For some reason we can’t quite comprehend, Vivendi has rereleased King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry, but has not repackaged the Quest for Glory series.

Two huge thumbs-up to AGDI for a fabulous piece of (an incredible amount of) work, the brand new Quest for Glory 2: Trial by Fire VGA remake!

Carpet Ride to Adventure

The Heroes and the Carpet illustrations were based off the original sketches from the Trial by Fire manual drawn by Ernie Chan.

The Reverse Interview – Computer Gaming in the Ukraine

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Ukrainian Computer Game Magazine

We were recently interviewed by Allan Karmine for a Ukrainian gaming magazine, “My Gaming Computer.” He asked some very thoughtful questions as well as telling us something of the state of gaming in the Ukraine. The interview was mainly about our Quest for Glory series. We are always pleased and surprised to be interviewed about our “antique” gaming series – Quest for Glory development ran from mid-1988 until late 1998. (We intended the games to be played forever, but alas, the modern computers just can’t handle them.) This time, though, we turned the tables around and asked Alan some questions about gaming in the Ukraine.

When our games were released in the 90’s, no U.S. games were legally available in the Ukraine, let alone translated into Russian, but that didn’t stop the gamers! Here are some of the things we learned about Ukrainian gaming:

Corey: Was there much difficulty playing games in English?

Allan: Even vice versa! My studies of English were sped up and greatly nourished by Sierra games and mostly Quest for Glory series, since I had it in rounds over and over again, from creating a greenish Hero in forests of Spielburg to disappearance in Borgov castle …. After that, I almost never played a translated game. When first English books appeared in rare foreign bookstores, I started reading them, and now I buy DVDs with English soundtrack… But base was formed many years ago, with QFG being my first serious practice of written English. For which I thank you.

Corey: I don’t think Sierra ever translated any of our games into any Slavic or Cyrillic languages. I know there were trade restrictions on selling modern computers through the “iron curtain” and I think on software as well. It’s amazing that any sort of a fan community was able to develop there under those conditions.

Allan: Well, it all began with the Perestroika in 1985 and unleashed a mighty wave with fall of Union in 1991. American culture (if it’s possible to call a bunch of popular comedies and action movies that way) flowed here unstoppable river. Ukraine, as well as other ex-soviet states, had a base for education and learning a lot of information. Many different communities that study foreign cultures or sub-cultures formed since then and they never stop appearing again. Computer gaming was one of those. Since real life was too dirty, risky or even dangerous, people clung to games as a different way of thinking, and escape from truth they had to face each days.

Corey comment: Something that has always amused me is the idea that fantasy writers “just make up stories” and that there is no need for realism in a fantasy. We’ve always felt the opposite, that to be believable a great fantasy story has to draw from real world archetypes and backgrounds, and that it has to be as real as possible outside of a few fantasy tweaks. Quest for Glory was no exception – We did countless hours of research into geography, history, and mythology before writing one line of dialogue or descriptive text. One thing that really struck us about Mr. Karmine’s comments was that across thousands of miles and a huge language gap, he “got” what we were trying to express. Here are some of his comments on the individual Quest for Glory game settings.

Allan: Before setting up an interview, I’d like to thank you for what you have done for us. That emotional blast, the thrilling storyline that reached deep into soul. Particularly, I am amazed that you replicated Baba Yaga’s hut and even set up burning skulls! Which comes not in every folk-tale of her. Thank you for Shadows of Darkness, wish it were longer and deeper. I have studied every corner of forest, and first time playing spend two in-game month walking around Mordavia so it became real to me.

The Skulls of Baba Yaga

Trial by Fire was a spiritual revelation to me. I have read some of 1001 Nights by that time so many things were recognizable… But the whole atmosphere of becoming a professional Hero – was something new. I took it serious then, and I take it so now – about learning Honor and accomplishing deeds and practicing with commander Uhura, er, simply Uhura, each day, and throwing fireballs all around the alleys watching over shoulder so that no one would notice. See, not just a storyline, but freedom inside the setting. As well as pretty roleplay system where you actually raise what you trained for hours of real life. And these secret ways were the best. Like, you can have all stats you want, but you can only become real Hero if you are a Paladin and you see more to the world than before, and see how much is yet to be done. Only by becoming a Wizard you step in contact with Faeries (pity that side-walk was short). And, let’s talk of romance of being a Thief and reaching some places unnoticed. I disgust common stealing, people should work for their bread – but I’d wish there were more missions like sneaking up the Khaveen’s place or balancing on a rope under Ad Avis spells. When dexterity and flexibility and open-mindedness and insight and compassion take place – that’s where happens Quest for Glory.

Corey and Lori: And that sums up what the School for Heroes is all about. We are trying to create a real environment on the Web where people (including us) can learn more about heroism and making a difference. Mostly it’s about fun, but there’s also a very important core of Doing What Is Right. We are adding to the fantasy lore of Silmaria and building a world, but we hope that we are also helping to create heroes in our own real world.

Hero from the Ukraine